Opened Wine: How Long It Lasts

How long does opened wine last? Did you open up a bottle of wine today and decide it can't be finished? That's okay, because it will last you a little longer if you take a few steps to preserve it. Read on to find out how long your bottle of opened wine actually lasts.

I once had a friend that had an opened bottle of Beaujolais sitting in her counter-top wine rack for months. MONTHS. Maybe even years. Every time I saw it, I cringed. The poor bottle was dusty and the juice inside was trashed. More so, I pitied the person that dared to take the next sip from it. First lesson in this article: do not leave opened wine sitting on your counter-top. Ever. (Refer to "Store wine in the Fridge", below, if that statement makes you confused). And please, for-the-love-of-vino, don't keep a bottle opened for a month.

So how long does your bottle of opened wine last? Well friends, just like almost everything that concerns the wine world, it depends. I'm sure that is not the answer you were looking for, but this is not a black-and-white scenario. Rule of thumb: if it has been four days, definitely dump that bottle out. For me, however, sometimes even a day-old opened bottle of wine must be poured down the drain. Here are some factors that will determine the length your bottle of wine will last after being opened:

Factors Determining How Long Your Wine Will Keep

Alcohol. The statement of dumping your bottle if opened for more than 4 days does not concern wines that are higher than 18% abv. Alcohol is a natural preservative to wine, so the higher the alcohol, the longer that bottle will last. Wines at 14% abv or higher will last longer (like a day longer) than wines lower than 14%, and wines that are 18% or more can be kept for weeks if stored properly (see below). So, don't go dumping your delicious bottle of Port, Sherry, or Madeira out, you hear me?

Example: A bottle of Riesling at 11% abv will age quickly, not lasting more than 1-2 days. A 14% bottle of Malbec, however, might last 2-3 days. Both bottles will be aging in this time frame, however, and will not taste the same as when you first popped the cork.

Red Wine or White Wine. In general, red wine will last longer than white wine (again, gray area here though). Red wine has more color pigmentation, tannin, and other components that will take longer to break down, so it lasts longer. The heavier the red wine is, the longer it will take to age. Many white wines should be drank young because they don't have these structural elements; this is why (with the exception of a few varietals), most white wines are not meant to age more than 5 years.

Age. This is a bit of a given. Obviously, younger wines will take a bit more time to age than wines that are already old. However, wines that are meant to be drank young won't be any good after some time being opened. In general though, a wine from 2015 will last a bit longer in an opened bottle than the same wine from 2010.

Price. This is when you may want to roll your eyes at me, but generally, more expensive wines will last longer than value wines. That is because expensive wines are generally more complex, meaning they have more flavors and characteristics going on that will take longer to break down and fall out. However, this also means you spent more money on this wonderful bottle of wine, so why risk it going bad? I'm a fan of drinking the wine I spent my hard-earned money on. (wink wink)

How to Keep Your Wine as Fresh as Possible

There are 3 factors that kill wine: heat, light, and oxygen. So, just do these two things to keep your wine as fresh as possible:

Close Tightly. The more oxygen that gets into wine, the more likely that wine will turn into vinegar. Unless I have a wine that needs to breathe, I put the cork or screw cap back on while my wine sits at the dinner table. If the bottle isn't finished after dinner, then it gets closed up extra tight and heads to the refrigerator. Screw caps are better than corks to store opened wine because they close the bottle up the most, eliminating any more oxygen from entering. (Although corks also close the wine, some oxygen will still slowly leak into the bottle). So if you are someone that only drinks a glass or two from a bottle a night, screw cap-enclosed wine is your new best friend.

Store in the Fridge. Warm temperatures accelerate the aging process, so protect your wine by keeping it in the refrigerator (never, ever store your wine in the freezer unless you want a wine slushee). If you keep it on the counter, the wine will be affected by heat and light, which is a big no-no. Store it in the fridge upright if possible so there is less surface area of the wine in contact with oxygen (which is taking up the empty space of the bottle). And most importantly--don't forget that your wine is in the fridge!

Final Word of Advice

The piece of advice I'd like to leave you with is this: just drink that bottle of wine! A wine changes in appearance, aroma, and flavor the minute you open it. It can be really cool to experience how the wine "opens up" with time, but with too much time, your wine will be unpalatable. Take all the measures I suggested above to keep your wine as fresh as possible for the next time you pour yourself a glass. But overall, do not keep a wine opened for more than 1-2 days.

Thirsty for more? Here are Links to My Favorite Recipes:

Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Roasted Chicken Paired with Pinot Noir

Broiled Swordfish Paired with Gavi